The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Study Guide

Mark Twain

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Tom and Huck are terrified that they might have been seen by the men in the graveyard. It is not clear to them yet whether Injun Joe has killed the doctor. In this situation Tom follows Huck's lead, and Huck very practically points out that Injun Joe "wouldn't make any more of drownding us than a couple of cats, if we was to squeak."

With Huck's wisdom in mind, the boys vow not to tell anyone about what they've seen. Tom writes up a contract, and Tom shows Huck how to write his initials. They sign it in blood.

At this point they see a figure and hear a howl. This time Huck consults Tom, who explains that the man (Muff Potter) is a "goner."

Analysis

Tom's reliance on stories and superstition comes to the forefront here again. Upon deciding not to tell what they know, Tom drafts a contract as in adventure novels. And upon hearing the howl, Tom assigns meaning to it in keeping with folklore and the situation at hand.

However, in this chapter the reader also sees Huck as a more mature figure. Huck is more removed from society, while their other friend Joe is firmly a part of the traditional social order. Tom falls somewhere in between. Huck does not attend school or have a proper home. He has no mother, and his father is an alcoholic. His words are represented in what is called "eye dialect" (words are spelled to indicate how they're spoken rather than according to spelling conventions). Tom must show Huck how to write his initials to sign the contract. In contrast, the reader knows by now that Tom reads, draws, writes, and memorizes verses. Huck is a contrasting figure, a less educated, less "civilized" boy. But he is also the one who responds calmly to the situation. He knows violence and alcoholism in a way Tom does not. He points out that their lives are at risk if they tell anyone about what they've seen, which leads Tom to agree not to speak of it.

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